November is the month when bright ocean run steelhead begin to find their way into many of British Columbia's rivers and streams. The fall rains have started, causing water levels to significantly rise, and with the rising water, strong sea going trout begin a migration to their home waters. Often, the water is so discolored that fishing is near impossible but the keen steelheader will watch for a few days of sunny weather that brings clearing to the steelhead streams, enough so that a well placed fly will sometimes receive an explosively strike by our king of west coast game fish! I have found that on brighter days with reasonable water clarity, a black partitioner fly will often be the answer to induce a steelhead strike. On dull overcast days with cloudy water, the same fly tied in orange will sometimes be very effective. This month, we will look at one of my favorite steelhead flies, the Black Practitioner.
I usually fish this fly unweighted but a few turns of lead wire is an option for getting the fly deeper in fast water. Start by tying in a clump of black squirrel to form a tail about as long as the hook shank. Overlay this with a shorter red pheasant rump feather. Next, attach either a silver or gold piece of tinsel to the hook shank and allow it to flow about 3 inches past the tail. Also at the hook bend, tie in a long but slender black hen hackle feather by the tip and temporarily push it out of the way past the tail. Then wrap either black wool or chenille from hook bend to hook eye and tie off. Now, palmer the hen hackle feather through to the hook eye, followed by 5 or 6 wraps of your tinsel also through to the hook eye and tie off. The final step is to place one or two black rooster saddle hackles along the top of the body to form a wing reaching to the end of the red pheasant tail feather. These black hackle feathers must be pushed down so that they lie very flat along the top of the hook shank. An interesting option is to attach two single golden pheasant black tipped neck hackle fibers at the hook eye, tying them back along each side of the body to the hook bend, before tying in the black hackle wing feathers. I haven't found that this makes the fly more effective but it does look better! Cement, whip finish the head and you have just completed a very good high water steelhead fly.
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